Complex regional pain syndrome is a rare disorder that may arise after a serious injury or illness. CRPS, also called reflex sympathetic dystrophy, causes intense chronic pain without a detectable origin.
Get the answers to common questions individuals have about CRPS:
Why does CRPS occur?
Doctors are not sure why some people develop CRPS. This condition is more common among women and individuals ages 20 to 35. However, it also affects men and can happen at any age. Some research indicates that a triggered immune response causes some of the body’s pain receptors to become more sensitive than normal. Because CRPS typically arises after an injury, some scientists theorize that it results from a disrupted healing response.
What are the symptoms of CRPS?
Different people experience CRPS differently. However, most experience intense, ongoing pain that worsens over time instead of improving. Often, the pain affects only a limited area of the body before spreading to surrounding tissues. People who have CRPS may also present with joint stiffness, swelling, redness, a burning sensation, compromised mobility, unusual hair and nail loss or growth, or changes in skin color, texture or temperature.
How do doctors diagnose CRPS?
Often, medical providers are unable to diagnose CRPS until the condition progresses. For this diagnosis, the patient must display an initial injury that causes much more severe pain than expected. The affected area usually has a change in appearance and the doctor cannot find another cause for the symptoms.
What treatments are available for CRPS?
While no cure exists for CRPS, therapy focuses on reducing pain symptoms and improving mobility and function. The doctor may prescribe:
- Anti-seizure, osteoporosis and antidepressant medications, which sometimes alleviate CRPS pain
- Prescription pain medications, including oral and topical treatments
- Physical therapy
- Mental health treatment to help the person cope with the psychological effects of chronic pain
When you develop CRPS after a workplace injury, you may be unable to return to your previous position. You can apply for North Carolina worker’s compensation benefits to help cover the cost of medical treatments and lost wages.